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1 Kings 17:1-4 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:58 mins 20 secs

Living in the Face of Adversity. 1 Kings 17:1-4

We are looking at the crisis that occurred in the northern kingdom that is primarily a result of God's discipline on the nation, but the ultimate cause is the negative volition of the people in the northern kingdom. They have rejected God, rejected His plan and His provision, they have operated on the fantasy that every unbeliever automatically operates on when he rejects truth and substitutes his own imaginations for handling the situations, crises and the various things that happen in life. That is the standard modus operandi of every single unbeliever and when you get cultures like we have in this world, whether an eastern culture or whether it is what is happening in the western civilization now that we have developed these really global types of interactions between all of these nations, we recognize that whatever is going on in the world affects everybody, and things that happen in far-flung places that we know very little about have a tremendous impact on what goes on in the day to day world. We live in a world today that is characterized more and more by governments, powers, political elites, business elites that are far removed from the absolutes of God's Word, and operating on levels of arrogance that most of us can't even imagine. The result of that is always going to bring tremendous crisis to people's lives.

The crisis that occurs is not a crisis of meteorology, not a crisis of economics, not a crisis of politics; it is a crisis of spirituality. When you reject God as the ultimate starting point something has to fill that vacuum, and so man will put something there, something in the creation to fill that vacuum. Then once you begin to think and operate out from that one of the first things to go are the divine institutions--#1 is individual responsibility and accountability. Primarily that is for God but it affects all the other decisions that we make in life; #2 is marriage, designed to be between one man and one woman. It is the framework for raising a family, for education and for passing that on to the next generation; #3 is the family; #4 is the nation. There is a progression in these divine institutions so when we start seeing a breakdown in individual responsibility and accountability, where something—either parents or governments or international bodies—begins to come in and to try to negate the impact of bad decisions, so that when people make foolish decisions that cause economic crises, everything starts steamrolling in many different directions. Once you break down individual responsibility then that begins to break down various aspects of marriage, and when marriage begins to break down that breaks down education within the home. When there is no education taking place primarily within the home then important information is not passed on to the next generation, and one generation after another becomes increasingly ignorant of a heritage, becomes increasingly unable to think critically, and the result then affects the nation and the health of the nation as a whole.

We live in a world today where people just think that what really matters is just economics, good economic theory, and that if they had that it would solve the problems. What we see more and more in the Bible is that the starting point isn't economics and it is not politics; it is the divine institutions. The divine institutions are fundamentally social and not legal, political or economic. The very core of man's relationship to God is this social element. It is integrally and intimately connected to economics but when you thing about what comes first it is social. If you are a social liberal and you believe in changing the definition of marriage and legalizing homosexual relationships then that is going to have economic consequences. If you believe in establishing a moral system that is taught in the public schools, that doesn't teach moral absolutes and that it is wrong to engage in promiscuous sexual activity, premarital sexual activity, then the result is going to be a high rate of teenage pregnancies. That has had drastic economic consequences to the nation. Social policies impact economic realities and we can't get away from that.

What we see in Israel and in the Mosaic Law is that God says: If you blow this primary principle (You will have no other gods before me) and you get sucked into worshipping the false gods of the pagans around you then the result is going to be that I will discipline you in various ways. Many of those ways included economics. That is where we see the nation in the 9th century BC. It is going through a national crisis, this famine that is brought on because of their rejection of God. The key person at the centre of this whole thing is Elijah. He is called "Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead." His name means "My God is Yahweh." That foreshadows the emphasis in these chapters, that Yahweh alone is God; not Baal or any of the other religions or gods of the ancient world, not any of the things that man wants to worship today—technology, money, material success, worshipping man as the ultimate in the chain of evolution, etc.—the only God is Yahweh.

Elijah challenges Ahab and says: "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives…" From the very beginning he is structuring everything he says counterpoint to the entire way of thinking that has come to dominate the northern kingdom. He is not going to validate any of their presuppositions, he is not going to legitimize any area by seeking a neutral, common ground. Often that is what happens between believers and unbelievers, especially in witnessing situations where people thing they have to find some area of common ground, areas of neutrality, and then they can communicate with an unbeliever. The trouble is we don't live in a universe where there is neutrality. It is either God's way or man's way; there is no area of neutrality. Elijah's starting point here is: "the God of Israel lives," he is a living God and we are going to start there. Elijah is basically saying that because He is a living God He is true to His Word, His promises in the Mosaic Law, and because of that I know that he is going to function in a certain way; He has promised to bring discipline on the nation and withhold rain. In contrast, Ahab is trusting in Baal who is supposed to be the god of rain and thunder and productivity and agricultural prosperity, and so part of this is a direct challenge to the system of thought that is dominating in the north. What Elijah is basically saying is: Okay, you have your view and I have my view and if I start with my presupposition that God is a living God and you start with your supposition that Baal is the god of rain, we are going to see who can actually live consistently on the basis of this presupposition. That is a great apologetic strategy when dialoguing with an unbeliever or a Christian who is completely confused by paganism.

There are some verses in Deuteronomy that show us the pattern of how Moses warned the Jews before they went into the land. Isn't it interesting how many times we have to go back to Deuteronomy? It was the parting message and challenge before he left them. Deuteronomy 6:14 NASB "You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you. [7:4] "For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you." So there is the prohibition in 6:14 and the explanation in 7:4. It would turn their children away from God. Once the parents shift away from their positive volition then that sets up a bad example, there is no longer spiritual training within the home, and then the sons and daughters take that to the next level.

Deuteronomy 11:16-18 "Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them..." The ultimate issue is deception, and here the "heart" stands for the thinking of the soul, the mentality of the soul. You don't deceive emotion or other elements, you deceive the thought system. "Turn away" indicate volition. Volition integrates to thinking, so in thinking the wrong thoughts you choose the wrong course. "Worshipping them" means that you look to them for meaning and purpose in life, for happiness, for being able to solve your problems—don't turn to other gods and think that they are going to be able to give you prosperity, that they are going to be able to provide your future retirement, provide you with a job next week or next month or next year. "…Or the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the LORD is giving you…" There are spiritual consequences that occur—physical, economic, political and social—as a result of making bad choices in the realm of whom you are going to worship. This is exactly the scenario that we are seeing in 1 Kings 17. "… You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead." The idea of impressing on your soul is the idea of making this the highest priority in life so that you retrain your thinking to think biblically. The idea of binding as a sign on the hand and frontals on the forehead is that the soul becomes so saturated with the Word of God that God and His Word are more real to you in the crisis than the circumstances and the situations and the emotions.

We have to realize that if we are not thinking God's way we are thinking Satan's way. Those are the options, and that is why Moses said in Deuteronomy 32:17 that those who were sacrificing to idols were sacrificing to demons who were not God. Every day we have decisions to make as to what our priority is. Is it going to be the Word of God or is it going to be the details and circumstances and pleasures of our life. Deut 32:46, 47 NASB "he said to them, 'Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, {even} all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life…'"

The challenge in the northern kingdom is that they have completely rejected God; He is no longer a reality to them, He is simply one of a number of options and a number of explanations. So when Elijah begins and says, "As the Lord God of Israel lives," he is throwing out a challenge. He is making theology the issue. It is that constant counterpoint to human viewpoint. The human viewpoint in the northern kingdom is dominated by the system of Baal, the weather god. Elijah says, "[Yahweh] before whom I stand…" This is directly related to the first divine institution. He is thinking in terms of his personal accountability to God. God has called him as a prophet and given him a mission. This was the man that God was going to use and Elijah knew the Word of God. He knew the Mosaic Law inside and out because he had impressed it upon his soul so that he could look at the circumstances that the nation was facing and he could interpret those economic, meteorological, sociological realities on the basis of the Word of God and arrive at truth. When you don't start with God you can't arrive at a true truth conclusion. So he makes the statement at the end of verse 1 that "surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word." This is what God says.

This is going to bring about a direct challenge to Baal who was the god of thunder, the god of rain, the god who is going to bring rain at the right time so that there would be agricultural productivity in Israel. Without agricultural productivity there would be various consequences as a result of drought. Elijah has to live right in the midst of this because God is going to use him and provide for him. This tells us how important it is for us to realize that as we look at what is going on in our nation and internationally that God is not going to provide for us by limiting the impact of whatever is happening around us so that somehow we are going to skate by without anything happening to us. Some people may feel the impact in a greater way than others we could all feel some serious impact.

Points we have to think about in terms of understanding and applying this passage: Elijah is going to be taken through three tests in this chapter and the purpose for these tests is to train him and prepare him for what is coming. Elijah doesn't know what is coming and so God has to prepare him. But what prepares him isn't simply going through the tests, what prepares him is going through the tests and handling them by applying doctrine. The only way for Elijah to be trained for what is going to happen on Mount Carmel is to handle the smaller crises and tests by consistently applying the Word. Each of these tests can be considered to be a hopeless situation or facing circumstances where we don't see any kind of human solution. Two points: When life seems hopeless, first of all God is preparing you for a future ministry of some kind—we don't know what it is. This is what Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 1:4 where he refers to God as the one who comforts us in all our afflictions [adversities], so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

The second thing is that God is teaching us about grace. Any time when we are in terribly tough times, when we don't want to deal with tomorrow, when we don't want to face to0morrow, when the crisis is coming and things seem hopeless, we need to be driven back to what Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 12, that God's grace is sufficient for us. That is what God is teaching us, and we can't go anywhere in the Christian life until we get to the point where we realize that God's grace is sufficient for us. 2 Corinthians 1:5 NASB "For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ." In other words, we can only realize how to handle these circumstances as we come to grips with God's grace provision and seeing how Jesus Christ handled all of the adversities that came His way when He went to the cross. God's grace was sufficient for Him so God's grace is sufficient for us.

In each of these cases Elijah will pass the test so that in effect he becomes what he was not when he first faced Ahab. He is going to go through a spiritual growth process for three and a half years when God is going to take him through advanced prophet's training. He is going to learn how to trust the Lord is ways that he had never trusted the Lord before. That is going to enable him to face the false prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah is going to be the leader of the nation here and lead them in a tremendous revival, but he doesn't see that in chapter seventeen. We don't see what the future holds; we don't see the potential, the possibilities of how God is taking us through this crisis now, that if we pass the test, if we apply the Word, and if we grow, the potential of God's use of us down the road in the future. Once we go through the tests and we blow it God is just going to take us through those tests again.       

Because of apostasy in the United States we are facing problems that are identical to the kind of problems that they faced in the northern kingdom of Israel. We have the same apostasy working, we have economic pressures working, we have paganism working; all of these things are operational and so we are going to learn how to handle this by using the faith-rest drill.

What we discover at the foundation of this is that the emphasis in 1 Kings 17 is the importance of logistical grace—learning to trust in God's grace provision moment by moment. That is the difficulty. It is always hard to learn to rest in God's grace in any kind of disaster, crisis, adversity, whatever it may be; to stop and relax and to think our way through certain promises and passages so that we can get our emotions under control and become stabilized. We don't know all the facts; we don't know half of what is going on; it is completely out of our control. But God is still in control and He is going to bring about exactly what he wants to bring about.

Today we are in a three and a half-year drought, as it were, and we are, like Elijah, sitting beside a stream that we are going to watch dry up on a day to day basis. The only things that is going to get us through this is the word of God—the promises of God, the plan of God—and we have to have this embedded in our souls because if it gets bad it is going to get really bad. The only thing that is going to get us through is doctrine, and doctrine is going to give us as believers the stability to survive. It is going to give us happiness and peace in the midst of whatever happens, and it is going to give us a tremendous opportunity to witness, to share the gospel, and we can stand firm. But we can't do it on just empty hopes alone that somehow things will change. It has to be based on the only hope that counts and that is the hope that is grounded in God's Word. This is what we see in Elijah. He is going to be taught about God's sufficient grace.      

1 Kings 17:2 NASB "The word of the LORD came to him, saying, [3] 'Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. [4] It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there'." Here is the mention of two water sources in the midst of the drought. The Holy Spirit condenses things and we have to stop and think about what is actually going on here and realize that what God has just told Elijah is that He is going to announce a drought and then put Elijah by some water that is going to go away. And Elijah is going to have to learn how to rely upon God and he will take care of him. Providing the ravens is a really interesting thing because Elijah who has been drilled in the Mosaic Law knows that ravens are unclean birds. So how is this going to work? But these are the instructions that God has given him.